I've been to two Budweiser Shootouts, including the one from the week prior, so I knew all about the speedway and what to expect, but it's the biggest race of the year. It would be like a baseball fan going to the World Series.
With filled hotels around DAB and Music Theory at 8:00 AM on Monday morning flying was the only choice. Not that it was a bad thing. Unfortunately Delta had no flights after the race until Monday, but as it was US Airways was cheaper by $30 anyway. As a result of this I was setting a personal best for most flights in a day with 4, the earliest and latest flights I've flown, and my first flight on a CRJ.
I'd also like to apologize for a general lack of pictures. Unfortunately taking pictures is rather difficult when 3 of your 4 flights take place in darkness. Anyway, on to the fun.
I always do this, but on this occasion I have a few more goodies.
Since the flight out of ATL was at 5:30, I was up and at 'em at 2:00 AM, ultimately leaving the house at 2:28.
Driving not far from my house. The roads were mostly deserted as one would expect, and the drive all the way there was a breeze, as we parked at the North Terminal at 3:21
A couple looks at the terminal form the parking lot. Sorry for the blurriness. My pictures are real hit-and-miss since I have really shaky hands.
The lower level entrance hallway to the North Terminal. I promise it looks nicer when there are lots of people around.
The sign that greets you when you make it out of the hall and into the main building.
And up the escelator into the termial.
The inactive US Airways counter. Lucky for me I printed all of the boarding passes for the day at home.
Where to next but the lovely TSA? This is one of the reasons I like to fly early. Things like waiting to be groped are quick and painless. And so it was on to the transportation hall
Unfortunately the train wasn't running since it was so early (Shortly before 4:00 AM). Needless to say I was disappointed.
But that wasn't going to stop me from taking a picture of an idle train in the Concourse T station. So we had no choice but to walk out to Concourse D. I really don't mind walking. I'm not lazy, and I wasn't pressed for time either, but I love that train.
Looking down the very long hallway that runs end to end of the airport.
Until finally we got to Concourse D. It's been a very long time since I've departed from D (6 years to be exact when I flew with Northwest)
And so we began our trip up to the concourse.
A bit of a mundane entrance compared to the other concourses, but I feel a picture was necessary nonetheless. We took a right since our flight left from gate D23.
A look down the concourse. Concourse D is very narrow. It's definitely not as nice say A or B.
And here we are at D23 shortly after 4:00 AM.
And the gate sign
A small shot of the gate area
Most importantly, what we have out the window. Our A319 this morning was N704US
Photo © Carlos Aleman - SJU Aviation Photography
Time to fly:
US Airways Flight 881
Depart ATL: 5:30 AM
Arrive CLT: 6:36 AM
Airbus A319 N704US
-We started boarding at 5:02. We had to wait all the way til zone 5 to board ourselves.
Traveling down. Stupid hands of mine....
And really heading down.
The door logo that rather fascinates me.
Cabin view from my seat 14A.
The view out my window at the A320 next to us. This was the last picture I would take until off the plane in Charlotte.
We pushed back at 5:27 and very easily taxied waaaaaaay to the other side of the airport for a nice takeoff from Runway 8R.
Unfortunately my notes are very lacking with the flight being so short. There was no drink service, and we cruised at 27,000 feet. There was no light for picture taking, but I must say the view was amazing. Imagine looking down on the clouds (or down on the brightly-lit Atlanta) with your wing being lit up by the light of a full moon. It was almost serene.
We started descending at 6:14, landing at 6:31 on Runway 5, surprisingly using a fairly good amount of reverse, and we taxied our way to gate B12.
We thought we only had about 45 minutes in CLT. Unbeknownst to us, our flight to Daytona was going to be delayed. More on that later. First we had to make a journey from Concourse B to Concourse E.
At the giant center metting point for all the concourses.
The Wright Flyer heading down to Concourse E. Escelator + my bad hands = blur. Sorry
Descending down to the lovely RJ gates
The direction we were heading at the split in the middle of the concourse. We were heading to gate E26
But just to make it official, here's the sign.
Our CRJ-900 to fly us to DAB N903FJ
Were supposed to take off at 7:32, but we were waiting and waiting and waiting until they came on and told us there was fog in Daytona and we would have to wait. Thankfully wifi at CLT is free. That was a nice surprise. I was keeping tabs on US Airways.com and Flight Aware. Ultimately what tipped me off that were about to go was a Roush-Fenway 727 taking off. Now of course I didn't know officially where it was going, but I think Daytona was a pretty safe bet.
Finally we boarded at 8:05
US Airways Express Flight 2699
Depart CLT: 7:32 AM (Delayed to 8:25)
Arrive DAB: 8:58 AM (Actual time of arrival, 9:34)
Bombardier CRJ-900 N903FJ
Photo © Alevik
Waiting to board.
Boarding through the semi-exposed jetway.
I literally had to duck to get in to this plane, and could only barely stand fully upright. If I was an inch taller, there would be no way.
I'm digging the America West interior
My view from 17A
And not much for the leg room either.
And a look out my misaligned and rather low window. Big people are not made for these airplanes. I remember why I had such an aversion to them. Unfortunately it was my only option.
We pushed at 8:05 and taxied over to Runway 18L
Hopefully my Youtube video of takeoff will embed. If not, here's a link
Takeoff was ok. Some good views of the surrounding area.
Breaking through the clouds.
Drinks started at 8:43 when we topped out at 24,000 feet.
I take it US Airways has done away with snacks? I read aviation news around the web every day, and maybe I read that, but I don't remember.
Some airport in Florida before we started descending at 9:04.
Once again, if it doesn't imbed, here's a link to my landing video in Daytona on Runway 7L
After we disembarked at gate 5 it was time to experience Daytona on race day!
My first impressions of DAB. Nice terminal, really, though very small.
No need for a car or a ride over to the front stretch
So we walked our way over to Richard Petty Boulevard.
Matt Kenseth's souvenir trailer. My favorite driver. My idea of self-control here is only spending $70.
We had several hours to kill before race time. A great thing with Nascar races is that there's always plenty to do beforehand.
AJ Allmandinger's car at the Ford area.
Speed stage broadcasting Nascar Raceday
Kenny Wallace talking to the crowd during a commercial break.
Eventually we made our way in to the track and up to our seats. The place was a zoo being such a huge event.
Depalma Tower where our seats were located
Our view of pre-race festivities.
A few of the cars starting at the back.
And a look over at turn 4. I should have been more heads-up. It kind of just looks like I was shooting for the Budweiser clydesdales and completely missed.
Matt Kenseth during driver intros
Some of the pack during the pace laps.
The start and opening lap of the 500. Once again, if the embed doesn't work, here's a link:
It really was a fantastic race, and a huge upset with Trevor Bayne winning, but the day wasn't nearly done yet. We still had two flights to go.
Back to the airport we walked
The walkway to the entrance. It was 6:00 straight up when we arrived at the airport again.
The entrance itself. Quite a contrast to what I'm used to in Atlanta for sure.
Escelator up towards security. It was a really nice and open area, but man is it small. I really was expecting the airport to be a zoo, but it was the total opposite, an absolute ghost town. As it was there were only two flights leaving after the race. Delta to ATL and my flight to CLT. I wish I would have known I could have made the Delta flight, because for time's sake it would have been better, and SkyMiles are for more valuable to me than Dividend Miles. Hindsight is always 20/20. No worries. Beore this day I had only flown the A319 once in my life. Now I get 3 in one day. Talk about a turnaround.
We got a bite to eat at the Subway there since hadn't eaten all afternoon. We kind of hung around for a bit before heading to security at 6:20
The very small, one-laned entrance to security.
Gate 5 was our departure. I guess our A319 was special for the race because the gate is marked as US Airways Express.
Our aircraft didn't get there until about 7:00, but I didn't catch the registration. I ended up having to walk down a ways to see it as N769US. While we waited to board the airport was abuzz with corprate traffic, the highlight of which was the Roush 727, which was easy to hear takeoff. A classic.
US Airways Flight 1422
Depart DAB: 7:55 PM
Arrive CLT: 9:17 PM
Airbus A319 N769US
Photo © Jason Whitebird
This must be a recent repaint because it was in the new livery, but no photos on the database reflect that.
Borading began a tiny bit late at 7:30, but somehow we got going early. I was rather surprised because people fail when it comes to getting on and off an airplane, normally.
My window view. Not sure about the light or why it's there.
My view just after the door closed from seat 14F
Little more legroom here than on the CRJ
We managed to wedge our way in all the post-race traffic when we pushed at 7:50 and made our way to runway 7L
A view of the track from the taxiway
Takeoff was good. I guess I should have expected that from a pretty short runway. Due to my lack of knowledge from a pilot's perspective I probably won't explain this well, but....here goes...He was very up and down on the throttles, and we started to climb steeper the farther out to sea we got (think an exponential function on a graph). Is there a reason for either of these?
We leveled off after an interesting climb at 33,000 feet and got drinks at 8:15, about an hour before landing time.
Some things never change.
We descended at 8:45 for landing on runway 23 and pulling in to gate B1. We had about an hour before our next flight, but that was about to change unbeknownst to us.
US Airways Flight 895
Depart CLT: 10:20 PM
Arrive ATL: 11:30 PM
Airbus A319 N742PS
PSA Heritage Livery
Photo © Hartsfield Photography
I'm pretty sure this was an equipment change. I thought it was odd to be close to flight time that there was no aircraft at the gate, and my checking of Flight Aware showed the flight was delayed. After some research and putting two and two together, turns out the flight is a continuation from Minneapolis (which was experiencing a blizzard at the time), and the first leg of that flight was cancelled.
Much to my surprise this is what I saw out the window. I had never flown on a special livery aircraft before. Of course it looks like any other A319 inside, but it was still cool to me.
Boarding began at 10:15 (just 5 minutes before our original departure time)
Boarding our smiling PSA jet in Charlotte
My view from 15A
We were quite delayed already pushing back at 10:44, and apparently our timing was awful. As we taxied to runway 23 there was a giant line of landing aircraft, which we had to wait for, and we were number 5 in line on top of that. You win some you lose some I guess in those cases.
I guess we our pilots wanted to get beck to Atlanta ASAP because it was the best takeoff of the day. Much more powerful than any other flight.
I managed to take one picture (and my last one of the night) of the dark airplane. Really there wasn't much to see until we started from from 22,000 feet at 11:34. No drink service or any of that, so unfortunately this flight is without some detail. I can tell you that the lady next to me was in a very pissed off mood, though I'm not sure why. I figured that should be me since I was awake at this point for almost 24 hours.
We landed on runway 8L at 11:53 (the same one I left from early in the morning), and taxied to gate D23 (the same one I left from early in the morning). When we arrived there was only one gate crew working two gates, but they were occupied sending off an A320 somewhere (not sure where), which meant we had to wait. Luckily the train was working tonight because I was in no mood to walk, and I had to drive back to Athens because I had class at UGA at 8:00 that morning (since it was now past midnight).
I made it back to Athens in under 2 hours thanks to no traffic, arriving just before 2 AM. Suffice it to say I was a zombie the next day, but it's ok, because it was an excellent trip, and my first on US Airways in 10 years. I have my favorite airlines and favorite airplanes, but when you boil it down, I just love to fly (and who here doesn't?). I don't get to do it as often as I like, so when I do I try and savor it.
I hope my errors were kept to a minimum. I started writing this at 3:00 this afternoon and it's now 9:05 with a dinner break thrown in there. I apologize for any misspellings of words and grammatical errors. There are over 2600 words according to my word count, and surely they're not all correct.
Thanks for reading!